Every city has its must-see attractions, but for an authentic travel experience and a taste of local culture, you have to go where the locals go.

Modena, Italy, located northwest of Bologna is known worldwide as a jewel in the heart of Emilia-Romagna. Famous for its Balsamic vinegar and tortellini, the city boasts art and architecture and legendary motors, too. 

The luxury auto houses Lamborghini and Ferrari including Scuderia Ferrari, Formula 1, the brand’s racing division, all call it home.

It's also full of hidden gems you won’t find in any travel brochure. 

To get into the hotspots, you need to know someone — enter Countess Angelica Ferri Personali.

Countess Angelica is the owner of Villa La Personala, an enchanting countryside residence nestled in the heart of the region. It was once the estate of Italian noblemen, and also Angelica’s former childhood home.

In 2022 she converted it into a boutique hotel and multicultural center hosting private events and customized experiences celebrating all that the location and her connections have to offer!

Daily Mail’s US Style Director got a personalized itinerary on her recent visit.

A Medieval Manor Reborn

Villa La Personala’s original structure was a watchtower built by Italian military architects in the 12th Century as a lookout during periods of battle. 

By the 14th Century, the ancient construction was transformed into a villa with the addition of two buildings on either side of the tower.

In 2012, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake destroyed the original Ghibelline battlements leaving other parts of the building in ruins, but its fairytale charm couldn’t be shaken and remains intact today.

Upon my arrival in the wood-beamed lobby with its museum-worthy chandelier, vintage chairs, and Persian rug I was immediately transported to another time. 

Prior to check-in, I was asked to fill out a questionnaire listing my interests and expectations for the visit.

From there, Angelica and her team got to work creating exclusive customized excursions for me.

The final itinerary included shopping, eating, drinking, and having fun—all the ingredients for a stellar trip.

Maria Vittoria Atelier

Grandemilia is the largest shopping center in the province of Modena with familiar brands like New Balance, GUESS, and Swarovski plus restaurants and the popular Ipercoop hypermarket.

But for a truly unique shopping experience, you must visit an Italian atelier.

My arrival to the Maria Vittoria Atelier entailed driving through a gate, walking down a tiny pathway, and up a flight of stairs to enter the stunning showroom.

There, racks of clothing and swimsuits lined the walls, and a long table styled with home decor including placemats, cloth napkins, and matching vases (one of her most popular designs) displaying flowers of every shade and variety ran the length of the space. 

Italian hospitality overflowed as I was served coffee presented in a beautiful cup on a floral platter.

Maria Vittoria is a one-of-a-kind shopping adventure. 

The atelier creates the most sought-after couture-level fashion, swimwear, and home designs in the area. 

Its word-of-mouth clientele needs no street signs to locate this gem. 

And to maintain exclusivity for her clients (very few own the same pieces), Maria Vittoria does not advertise.

If you’re traveling to Modena, be sure to book an appointment—and tell her Angelica sent you.

Biagini Handbags

Next up was Biagini. This family-run business was established in 1968 in Bologna and has since become a Modena favorite for superior craftsmanship and eclectic, handmade artisanal leather goods.

Founder Alberto Amidei oversees production, his wife Enza manages quality control, and their children Elisa, Valentina, and Luca are respectively in charge of business management and product development for women and men.

The heritage brand uses rare materials like python, ostrich, and crocodile, and further customizes many styles with hand-painting and other artisan detailing.

Cristiana Bellodi Perfume

Forget what you know about window shopping. 

In Modena, the best places to seek out have no curb appeal. There’s nothing at street level to indicate your arrival at chic perfumery, Cristiana Bellodi Profumo other than her name on the buzzer.

Founded in 1925, this unique collection of eau de parfums is the result of ancient formulas and obsolete techniques handed down over the ages. 

Each scent uses manual processes and the distillation of essential oils using family stills and long maceration times.

I’m highly sensitive to scents, but I was able to try these naturally-derived essences on without a reaction other than euphoria!

Casa Museo Luciano Pavarotti

The house that the legendary operatic lyric tenor built in the Modena countryside to entertain, teach, and enjoy family life has been open to the public as a museum since 2015. 

Each room displays the day-to-day memories and memorabilia of the beloved maestro including costumes and awards achieved during his illustrious career.

There’s also a private collection of personal letters from iconic artists Frank Sinatra, Sting, and Celine Dion, plus notes from friend and fan Princess Diana.

Throughout the estate, photographs of family and friends, as well as colorful paintings that Pavarotti created adorn the sunny yellow walls. 

In the spectacular memorabilia room, there are thousands of fan letters and portraits of the artist.

You can purchase a ticket to the museum of the 'man who moved millions', but Countess Angelica orchestrated a private showing fit for a Diva! 

I had the honor of being toured by Pavarotti's wife who shared her personal stories with me along the way.

Put the pedal to the metal at Ferrari 

Modena, Italy has been called “Motor Valley” for over a century as the industrial and cultural center of the region and home to luxury automobiles Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Bugatti and Ducati. 

Enzo Ferrari was born in Modena and built his auto empire here. The Italian engineer, entrepreneur, and racing driver lived to be 90 and was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994.

If you have a need for speed, visit the Autodromo di Modena and enjoy 15 minutes of adrenaline pumping circuit time behind the wheel of your own Ferrari!

Vintage sports car enthusiasts out to explore the exhilarating history of Italian autos can schedule factory tours. Be sure to make reservations in advance for the Maserati showroom and factory, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Pagani museums.

The Cuisine of a Contessa

Italian cuisine is regional, with each of the country’s 20 regions having its own culinary delights.

Every year, millions of tourists travel to Naples to try the Neapolitan-style pizza, while jetsetters make their way to Genoa for a taste of the ravioli.

Modena’s distinctive specialties include Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Balsamic vinegar, Lambrusco sparkling wine and tortellini. 

The area is a treat for foodies and Angelica’s connections are your ticket to fine dining.

Luca Marchini, the Michelin-starred chef and owner of multi-award-winning restaurant L'Erba del Re is a close friend of Angelica. 

At Villa La Personala, you can book him for a private cooking class, a chef-led tour of top eateries, or a custom cooked meal, all compliments to the chef—and the Countess, of course.

The World’s Best Balsamic

Giusti 1605, Giuseppe Giusti of Modena has been one of the world’s best Balsamic vinegars for four centuries. 

As far back as 1864, Giuseppe Giusti wrote down his rules for creating perfect oro nero or ‘black gold.’ 

The region’s unique agricultural conditions and the strict production methods have made Modena the only place in the world for making such a superior product.

After exploring the intricate production process at their famed acetaia (vinegar cellar), take a trip to their shop in the town centro (center) on Via Farini.

If you plan it right, you can get on the waiting list for Hosteria Giusti, the secret restaurant behind the shop.

The Hosteria was founded in 1989 by Adriano Morandi in the place where the old Salumeria slaughterhouse stood. 

To date the restaurant hosts only 4 tables for a maximum capacity of 24 people. The restaurant has a six month wait list and is considered the very best by the Modenese...

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